We recently had our driveway completely ripped out and redone. We knew we’d be investing a lot of money on the project so we wanted to be sure we hired the right person to do the job. One of the first places we looked was on a home improvement rating site. Then we checked out company websites.
Fancy websites and slick marketing didn’t move us at all.
About how easy the guy was to work with. About the fact that they took their time to do quality work and clean up after themselves. About whether or not they stuck to their commitments and did what they said they were going to do.
Testimonials tell you more about who you’re going to be working with and how pleasant that experience will be than any marketing or ads could ever do.
What testimonials are featured on your website or LinkedIn profile? Do they talk about the quality of your writing? Yes, that’s important. No question. You’re a writer, after all.
But do they also cover the soft skills that make your client’s life easier?
If you were a busy marketing manager, trying to meet crazy deadlines for publishing content, would you be convinced by “high quality writing”?
You might be… until the first time you hired someone who couldn’t meet their deadlines. Or argued with you about your feedback. Or didn’t understand what you wanted, then refused to change their promotion until you paid them more.
Once that’s happened to them, there’s one testimonial they’re going to be looking for before they’ll even consider hiring a freelancer.
“Professional and easy to work with.”
Getting Client Testimonials
So, how can you get a strong testimonial like that for yourself?
For starters, you’ll need to BE professional and easy to work with. And that applies from the first conversation through the final acceptance of your submission. Make life easy for your client.
When you have a potential client ready to work with you, prepare for your discussion.
- Research the company.
- Look at any promotions they’ve run, look around their website, notice what their marketing message is and how they communicate with their customers.
- Have a list of questions or a process of discovery to make sure you get the information you need to proceed.
And once you’ve asked your questions and gotten the information you need to get started…
You may need to go back to the client with clarifying questions or to ask for more information.
That’s perfectly fine, if it’s minimally disruptive. But remember that your client has hired you because you’re the expert writer. They don’t have the internal resources to do the job themselves, so they’ve reached out to you to partner with them to achieve their goals.
That’s the key word, too: partner. They’re generally not looking to have to train you to do your piece of the project.
And because you’re being independent, it’s very important to…
Let them know periodically how the job is progressing, especially if it’s a larger project. Offer to show them drafts if that’s appropriate. It’s better to know early if they don’t like your idea or if they want to change the direction.
If you do, for some reason, get behind on a project, give them a heads-up. Maybe they can adjust their calendar to accommodate the date change. Or maybe they can take something off your plate to enable you to get them something on schedule.
It’s bad to miss milestones, but it’s worse to just ignore them. Your client most likely has made their own commitments based on your commitments.
Which leads me to…
Meet Deadlines and Milestones
If you say you’re going to have a headline and outline to your client by Tuesday, have it to them by Tuesday. Better yet, have it to them by the end of the day Monday.
This is a major area of sensitivity to clients. Your ability to meet deadlines is table stakes to many clients. And missing them shows very clearly your lack of professionalism and customer-focus.
It’s critical to keep in mind that in most cases, there are other partners in the production process after your phase (like graphic designers, web developers, compliance personnel…) and if you’re late, you disrupt all of those other professionals too — causing headaches for the marketing manager.
One more thing which clearly demonstrates lack of professionalism is failing to…
Proof Your Work
Don’t make your client find your spelling and grammar errors. Read your project out loud. Make sure you remove passive voice, awkward phrases, and unnecessary words. Pretend you’re handing your term paper in to your college English professor: check and then re-check your work before you hand it in.
If you do all that, your client should be happy to give you those six magical words for your testimonial.
What If You Don’t Have Any Clients Yet?
Tap your other networks to get those testimonials.
Do you have people at previous jobs who would be willing to give you a testimonial on LinkedIn or for your website, describing your professionalism? It doesn’t have to be for writing or entrepreneurship. If you were a waiter, were you on time for your shifts? Did you treat your co-workers and customers with respect? Did you get promotions because you were reliable?
Clients won’t generally ask what you did at the company who gave you the testimonial. They just want to know they’ll be able to rely on you to meet your obligations.
Do you volunteer for a charity or at church? Or with the Cub Scouts, Rotary Club, or the local animal shelter? Can you be counted on to do what you say you’re going to do? Ask someone you’ve volunteered with to write you a testimonial.
Do what you can to reassure any potential clients that you will not only deliver a high-quality work product, but their lives will be easier by partnering with you… make sure you’ve got proof in your marketing materials that you’re “professional and easy to work with.”